Thursday, August 30, 2018

Trip to Cedar Rapids: Kernels 6, Burlington Bees 2

The Kernels program lists five outfielders, at least four of whom would logically be players the organization wants to see get substancial playing time.

All five started at least once in the two games I saw on this trip, with probably the top two -- Trevor Larnach and Akil Baddoo -- starting both games, in right field and centerfield respectively. Trey Cabbage and Gabriel Maciel each started a game in left, and Jacob Pearson was the DH in one game.

A few observations:

Larnach, the Twins' first-round draft pick (20th overall) this year, has split this initial pro season almost evenly between Cedar Rapids and Elizabethton. Neither level should be a great challenge for a college star from a big-time program. Larnach went 0-for-8 in the two games with a walk and a stolen base. He did have three hard-hit outs over the two games to left field. At 21, he is the oldest of the group of five, and the one with the least professional experience.

Baddoo's stat line is intriguing. He's hitting about .240, which isn't impressive, but his on-base percentage is around .350 and his slugging percentage is over .400. He hit leadoff in both games, and like Larnach went hitless (0-for-8 with a walk and two steals). He's quite fast and made a nice catch at the wall Wednesday night. He's also just 19, quite young for the league.

Pearson came to the Twins from the Angels last offseason when Anaheim was scraping up all the international pool money it could for the Shohei Ohtani derby. His skill set appears to be akin to Baddoo, but my sense -- and the stat line supports this -- is that the tools are pitched at a lower level than Baddoo's. He went 1-for-2 in his one start with a walk, an RBI and a run scored.

Cabbage was taken in the fourth round of the 2015 draft as a third baseman. He's now splitting time between left field, right field and first base. He's gotten more playing time this season than in the previous three, and he's hit a little better, but probably not enough to merit being taken serious as a prospect. This is also the first season in which he hasn't been notably young for the level of competition. He went 1-for-4 in the game I saw him play with a double and a run scored.

Maciel was part of the return from Arizona for Eduardo Escobar last month. He really impressed me Wednesday night. He went 3-for-4, which is nice, but what struck me was how he went 3-for-4. First at-bat, hitting left-handed, he pulled a solid single. Second at-bat, still hitting left-handed, he laid down a perfect bunt. Third trip, hitting right-handed against a lefty reliever and facing a sharp shift with a man on second, he was clearly trying to go to right and, after fouling several pitches off to the first base side, grounded one through the vacancy. It was a key piece of a four-run inning that put the Kernels ahead to stay. (He struck out in his final trip.)

Like Baddoo, he's 19. Unlike the other four, who all hit left handed, he's a switch hitter. He made a nice running catch in left, and appears to be fast enough to play center. He hasn't hit for much power in the Midwest League (he played for Kane County before the trade), but that can come. 

This is, of course, low-A ball. None of them are on the cusp of the majors, although Larnach may be on a fast track. They have genuine tools. The challenge is learning to use them.

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